NAGPRA, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, (25 U.S.C. 3001 et seq.,) is a United States federal law passed in November 1990. NAGPRA requires federal agencies and institutions that receive federal funding to return Native American cultural items to their respective peoples. In addition, the Act establishes a program of federal grants to assist in the repatriation process and authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to assess civil penalties on museums that fail to comply.
Since 1990, the California Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) has successfully repatriated 82 California Indian collections containing the remains of a minimum of 168 individuals, as well as hundreds of funerary objects, and items of cultural patrimony. Information on NAGPRA's total number of recovered Native American human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony have been published in the Federal Register.
The NAGPRA Collection housed at the California Statewide Museum Collection Center is comprised of a wide variety of items. Foremost in the collection are priceless California Indian Baskets. The 3,000 baskets in the collection reflect the diversity and antiquity of human experience of California Indians. The baskets vary in construction and usage. Many California Indians used watertight baskets for cooking acorn soup. Fire-heated stones were placed into food mixtures and stirred with a willow loop or paddle until the food was cooked. During ceremonial occasions and feasts, large cooking baskets were used to serve steaming hot food.
The baskets in State Parks' collection illustrate the qualities that determine their strength and durability: weaving technique and selection of raw materials. Weavers select materials based on their properties and the intended function of the basket. The ability to weave a watertight basket demonstrates the sophisticated technology and plant knowledge possessed by many California Indians.